Time, ladies and gentlemen ... please: ... what a pity - they are all gone..
The once much-loved George Hotel in Avondale closed on January 4 - sold to Multi-Choice as their new HQ. A planned valedictory meal in the grotesquely named Freckle and Phart pub, or the depressing dining room, which was reminiscent of railway architecture circa 1946, was aborted, as it was semi-gutted well before closure.
Next door was Nick's Place where you went to sober up after a night out !!
Further up George Road, some Greeks opened a nice restaurant, the Acropolis. The business was then run by the flamboyant Spiros Blismas, Later Terry Rossiters son ran the place!
The Charleston Hotel (ex-Kamfinsa Park) is also shut: "Due to ever rising," I heard. Both the above places underwent major changes in clientele, facilities, and ambience, even cleanliness but are fondly remembered for special functions and The George, especially for wedding receptions, when the Cambitzis ran it.
Since independence Harare lost the popular Windsor Hotel on Baker (Nelson Mandela) Avenue. It housed the Colony, where Edwin and Rachelle played twin pianos to international cabaret standards to discerning diners in formal finery. The Lincoln Room had fantastic value for money food in luxurious surroundings. It closed late November 1980 when the set three-course lunch, featuring baron of beef, rolled to the table and carved to order was $1,50.
1890 was the cocktail bar. Popular with lunchtime philanderers, it shut at 2:30 sharp, when drinkers moved next door to Branch Office (ex-Blue Room) opening 10:30 t o 10:30. Some heroic boozers returned to 1890, which shut at 11:30.
The Egg and I was in the same building, as was Lion's Den: almost impossible to enter unless in the RLI.
The day the Windsor closed (earlier than announced to avoid vandalism seen at Meikles' Long Bar by "souvenir hunters") beer was 38c; bar lunch 35c.
Opposite was a complex housing the raucous Round Bar and Le Coq d'Or where little French was heard. The building was owned by a religious sect, which left the country at UDI. The premises were banned from selling drink or tobacco; dancing was proscribed. For years they thought it was a library! Picture the indignation when they found the country's most bawdy, boozy, bare-knuckled, bra-less nightlife had flourished there for years!
Playboy was nearby, as was La Boheme: nothing to do with opera, it offered strippers of often-venerable years and was a target of an inexpertly thrown grenade during the "bush war". The entrance fee for Sunset Strip was 2 shillings and sixpence." The Gentlemen" & The Chequers were the popular Rock bands that played at Saturday Lunchtimes and Sunday Evenings!
Three major Chinese outlets closed after 1980: Golden Dragon, a hangout of pre-independence Ministry of Information people, the bar a favourite with international journalists,
The Bamboo Inn with a dark, dingy but somehow appealing pub run by the Kee family and later by an Irishman called (of course) Paddy and The Mandarin, next to Meikles Store which had no bar, but hacks and hackettes gathered round a service hatch as if in a Fleet Street club.
Down the way the Pink Panther also had a grenade lobbed in during the hondo. Run by two aged sisters from the Caucasus, they served delicious kebabs at the original site, later Linquenda House. One also owned the Georgian Grill. PP later became Alfredo's then Front Page: restaurants with lively pubs, gregarious regulars, and liberal hours. The "Page" owners: a blonde and a brunette belonged in international glamour magazines.
Pino's in Union Avenue (Kwame Nkrumah) was arguably the best seafood joint around, but gained notoriety when someone complained and the ebullient eponymous Portuguese proprietor whacked him over the pip with a flambe pan.
The Bombay duck between Jameson (Samora Machel) and Central was run, improbably, by ex-BSAP troopie, Tug Wilson; it served iridescent curries all hours for next to nothing.
In Greendale Avenue was the locals' idea of an English Pub, The Red Fox... At Msasa, The Red Lantern, run by S-W African (Namibian) Germans specialised in eisbein, knackwurst and bratwurst that I can still smell and taste.
Beverly Rocks was a hospitable hostel: good food, great music, lovely gardens, (now a government training centre.)
Going east, the old Jamaica Inn was run by various characters including cross eyed Ruby Strutt, who was married to Jimmy Shields, the racing Driver; an ex-Federal hangman and Commonwealth boxing gold medal winner. Good stop there on the way to or from Three Monkeys in Marandellas (Marondera) for lunch. (Now a religious institute.)
Glen Lorne's local was the festive Highlands Park, run first of all by the Nicholls family and then by ex-Kenya big game hunter Toby Royston. Great dinner dances, lovely Sunday lunches, cream teas in the garden.
Down the road at Chisipete Shopping Centre was The Howf of Chisholm, which was super
The Spaniards, Marlborough (ex-Quorn) served incredibly good food, except for the soup, which was: always watery, insipid and costly. . You queued and often cleared the table yourself. The food was delicious and you either brought your own wine or bought rotgut Barolo. Guido was deaf and when you came to pay he asked what you had and worked it out in his head. When he retired to the mother country, a redhead Italian bombshell bought the business and never looked back, until the Aussie Tax Squad arrived. By that time she had opened Sandro's in Kingsway. There's not been another Harare establishment like Sandro's. Starting as a private club, it retained club land ambience till the end. Five stars cooking or basic bar lunch often polished cabarets; journalists and businessmen rubbed shoulders with cabinet ministers.
Sardinian Sandro also ran Eros: fine Mediterranean food and friendly bar and Sandrock's, for back-packers. Close by was Taco's with punters Chalet as a suitcase bomb exploded at Woolworth's nearby with many fatalities? Regulars helped survivors. (Barbours was the real target.) On quieter Chalet days, great juicy joints were trundled in at lunch; patrons sliced their own for 50c with pickles, mustard, horseradish chips and rolls.
The city's best pies were served in a motor sport-theme cocktail bar.
There was a civilised snooker room (not a crummy pool hall.) It became a motor parts store, then a Spar.
Park Lane (now GMB HQ) the Kaya Nyama steakhouse was its printed "Doggy bags" as the steaks were so enormous. The Clovagalix, on Fife Avenue, caught fire once too often, becoming Cafe Med, Borrowdale. Caruso's on 4th/Samora was a great Chips d'Oliviera club-cum Portuguese pub/restaurant.
As Vila Peri, it moved to 3rd/Baines where the usually grubby Pointe is now. Next-door was Fat Mama's, previously Spago's. Now called Mama Mia's it thrives at Newlands.
The Cellar, Marimba Park was tops with journos and the printing trade, serving wonderful whisky prawns, real rosti; the upstairs bar often seemed the centre of the universe.
Kamfinsa's Bizarre Bar (later IT, previously Buster's, The Cockpit, etc) was hugely popular with yuppies, briefly with buppies; once a licence to print money. New owners cut corners. Now it's a swimming pool sundries shop. Meikles closed The Mirabelle, The Causerie, Flagstaff and Captain's Cabin, Bagatelle and La Chandelle. Monomotapa lost 1001 Horsemen and Bali Hai, but gained La Francais from Avondale.
When everywhere else closed, you could get ABFs at Al's Place near the Kopje. Probably unlicensed: whether you ordered whisky, brandy or rum it came from one bottle; gin, cane, vodka, white rum another.
High -Chaparral (ex-Nick's Bar), Avondale opened all hours: a good greasy spoon where coffee and steak rolls helped avoid the worst "mornings after", especially after Le Matelot (ex-Lighthouse), died a death. Aphrodite, Strathaven, was a superb Greek restaurant; Demi's near State Lotteries closed due to commuter omnibuses' anarchistic parking. The original owners set up Tavern Bacchus, near Reps, which then became the Manchurian.
Up the street, Copacabana served wonderful Portuguese food, having previously been a great Chinese (White Lotus?).
Himalaya, nearby, did colossal searing noon curries at minimal cost but was avoided after dusk. Rosedale's/Rose Bowl/Rose & Crown in Hatfield was a superb Sunday lunch venue with live entertainment.
One of the best seafood platters you could ever eat was at the Kentucky, also in Hatfield. When another outfit bought the place, proposing to shut it, locals raised a widely supported petition in protest. Courts ruled in favour of the petitioners but it's closed anyway.
Jameson's Tiffany's re-opened after many years On a positive note there's a flurry of recently opened ethnic restaurants, tea and sadza, coffee shops and lodges; but sadly, few seem to have the character or characters in which the closed establishments were so rich, but time will tell!